Resource-rich Brazil must rebalance its ties with its key trading partner China but must not allow growing anti-Chinese sentiment among its manufacturers to harm flourishing exchanges, experts said.
“Brazil gets very little (from the relationship), China gets much more,” Matias Spektor, head of the Getulio Vargas Foundation’s center of international relations,” told a conference focusing on Brazil’s aspirations as an economic superpower.
From January to September 2011, bilateral trade totaled around 57.6 billion dollars, with a nine billion surplus in Brasilia’s favor, up from 56 billion dollars for the whole of last year, according to official Brazilian statistics.
By contrast, US-Brazilian trade reached 43.3 billion dollars during the first nine months of the year, up from 46 billion for the whole of 2010.
Spektor said the United States could help Brazil achieve a stronger bargaining position in its dealings with Beijing.
“The United States and Brazil are potential allies. Washington can help Brazil deal with Beijing in a more symmetrical way,” he added.
To feed its growing appetite for agricultural and mineral commodities, cash-rich China has boosted trade links with Latin America in recent years, notably becoming Brazil’s largest commercial partner.
Iron ore and soybeans represent more than 80 percent of Brazil’s exports to China, which in turn sells mostly manufactured goods to its fellow member in the so-called BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
Brazilian manufacturers have been complaining about the influx of cheap Chinese imports.
And Spektor said this was feeding growing anti-Chinese sentiment not only in Brazil but also across Latin America.
But Charles Tang, chairman of the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce, told the conference that Beijing was not to blame for the so-called “Brazil cost”, referring to the high cost of domestic manufacturing, labor and transport prices, which push some buyers to seek goods in China rather than from local sources.
“This anti-Chinese sentiment could give rise to nationalism that would play against the interest of Brazil,” he warned.
“Many Brazilian entrepreneurs understand that China offers a wealth of opportunities... We have to strengthen Brazilian entrepreneurs,” Tang said.
Spektor stressed the need for Latin American countries to speak with “a single voice” when dealing with Beijing.
The two-day conference, organized by the Brazilian Association of Information Technology and Communication Companies (BRASSCOM) and the British magazine The Economist, focused on the goal of making Brazil the world’s fifth largest economy by 2022, when it marks its bicentennial as an independent nation.